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7 Spirituality Pitfalls to Avoid

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1.Spirituality can make you less happy (or even depressed): Although many people turn to spirituality to become happier, the true goal of spirituality is peace, not happiness. For this reason, spirituality doesn’t specifically aim to teach happiness methods. For example, while it might make you happy to use distractions (netflix, going out with friends, etc.) to avoid painfully facing your deepest demons, spirituality will encourage you to do the opposite. 

This process (of facing what you usually try to run from) can make you painfully aware of yourself in ways that you weren’t before. While all of us have hurt someone in our past, it’s human nature to ignore these instances because it forces us to face the weaknesses in our character.

However, the heightened awareness that spirituality teaches makes it so that we can no longer avoid these painful truths. Your identity might even start to collapse. If you’ve never fully faced your demons before, you might be surprised by how dark your darkest depths are and how long it might take to recover. 

The Fix: To avoid completely losing yourself in darkness, practice self-compassion. It’s normal for your increased self-awareness to cause feelings of embarrassment or powerlessness. No one is flawless, we’re all a work in progress and everyone has to start somewhere.

Some people live their entire lives never turning inward. The fact that you did is valuable and something to be proud of. 

2.Spirituality can trap you in depression: Not only can spirituality make you depressed, but if misunderstood, it can even trap you in depression. An interesting aspect about spirituality is that it’s the quintessential zenith of acceptance. However, too much acceptance can poison your life into stagnancy and prolonged suffering.

If you’re feeling isolated and lonely, some spiritual teachings will tell you to embrace the feeling rather than try to change it. 

While there is great value in learning to be more present during difficult emotions, there’s no need to suffer unnecessarily. In actuality, acceptance is about accepting what you can’t change; if you can change an unpleasant feeling, do it.

People who sacrifice their own enjoyment for the faux promise of a specific future reward often end up bitter and resentful if they don’t receive it.  

The Fix: Eternal entrapment in depression or suffering is avoidable if one can understand that the point of spirituality isn’t to suffer and be miserable, it’s to heighten our self awareness to have a better toolbox for shaping and directing our lives. We can’t change what we’re not aware of and spirituality teaches awareness so we can change. 

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3.Can trap you in ideals: A common adage is “Comparison is the thief of happiness.” This is true. With spirituality’s elusive, mystical speak of enlightenment, nirvana, and total freedom from suffering, it’s natural to compare your current state to this ethereal ideal and long for it. 

However, to practice spirituality with an obsessive mindset of trying to attain a future destination would ironically rupture the peace spirituality teaches. Additionally, such a mindset would miss the main teaching of spirituality: acceptance. While it’s easy to accept the things we like, acceptance is most powerful when accepting things we don’t. 

The Fix: The ability to accept our current place is the more peaceful path. While desire is natural and healthy, attachment to desire creates suffering.

Furthermore, would you be surprised if the path to enlightenment were significantly more pleasurable than enlightenment itself? What many people don’t realize is that nirvana means nothing. No suffering and misery, but also no happiness or joy. Although nirvana is supposedly the destination, it’s important to enjoy life ‘on the path’ because everything has its perks. 

4.Can make you a perfectionist: Aside from the peace shattering turbulence of desire, misinterpreted spirituality can also lead to never ending self-criticism and perfectionism. With the vast teachings that can be applied to virtually any and every scenario, it could be easy for someone to have constantly regenerating reasons to scold and be disappointed with themselves. 

The Fix: Rather than aim for flawless perfection, aim solely for minimal improvement. Ignore the times you ‘miss’ and celebrate the times you don’t.  

5.It can’t cure everything: A number of influential people have believed that spirituality is more capable than what’s been proven. For example, Steve Jobs admitted regrets over having relied on alternative healing methods rather than seek proper cancer treatment. He believes that had he sought proper care sooner, he would have lived.

Another influential figure, Deepak Chopra, believes that spirituality can reverse aging. While it’s true that spiritual practices can indirectly lead to slower aging and greater immunity, it can be dangerous to believe that spirituality can completely reverse physical aging altogether.

The Fix: Understanding that spirituality has its limits can help one to have realistic goals.  For every mind blowing claim you read, research further to have a more comprehensive picture. 

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6.It can make egos bigger rather than smaller: Despite spirituality’s goal of minimizing the ego, it can easily have the reverse effect. The reason for this is because spiritual growth is invisible. There’s no way to tangibly know how ‘developed’ someone is; this makes it easy for people to indulge their ego without needing to have any real proof behind their claims.

The Fix: A good way to know whether or not you may be inadvertently getting a bigger ego rather than a smaller one, is to ask yourself how often you preach to others what you’ve read vs. how often you practice it.

Another good question is to ask yourself: If you couldn’t talk to anyone about spirituality or your spiritual practices ever again (if no one knew or could ever know about your spiritual development), would you still practice it? These questions will tell you how much your practice is rooted in caring what others think of you vs. having a genuine, honest desire for self improvement.

7.It can make you fearful of independence. What many spiritual leaders have in common is inner light; hence, when people are in a dark place, they turn to the spiritual leader to illuminate the darkness of their fears, doubts, etc. However, to rely on the spiritual leader’s light eternally would sabotage the follower’s own journey. While it’s natural to initially cling to a spiritual leader, the goal is to generate and live sustained by one’s own light. 

The Fix: To keep in mind that every human being is unique, that no human life has ever repeated, and that there’s unlimited truth for different lives to discover can help one awaken to the beauty of their own independent path.

Therefore, follow a spiritual healer for as long as you feel it’s helping you. As you learn, be sure to keep note of any truths that don’t fit your own experience. Eventually, you might find that to blindly follow a spiritual guide forever would eventually come at a personal loss. There is no universal truth and there’s always new, fresh truth to discover.

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